ol·​i·​garch ˈä-lə-ˌgärk How to pronounce oligarch (audio) ˈō- How to pronounce oligarch (audio)
plural oligarchs
: a member or supporter of an oligarchy
in Russia and other countries that succeeded the Soviet Union : one of a class of individuals who through private acquisition of state assets amassed great wealth that is stored especially in foreign accounts and properties and who typically maintain close links to the highest government circles
But what does it really mean to be a Russian oligarch …? … in Russian politics, the term first came about in the 1990s to describe a dozen or so powerful men who amassed immense wealth following the collapse of the Soviet Union.The Business Insider
The task force will pool the resources of the countries' law enforcement divisions to track down the assets of Russian oligarchs stashed overseas, a difficult task complicated by the opaque or complicated financial instruments frequently used by Russian financial elites to hide their holdings from public view.Jeff Stein
… young Armenians, who joined the protests in droves, angry that the same small club of politicians and oligarchs has controlled the country since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.Neil Macfarquhar

Examples of oligarch in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Some experts predicted that stringent U.S. penalties on Russian oligarchs would prompt them to turn on Putin and endanger his hold on power, but, at least so far, those hopes have not materialized. Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports, arkansasonline.com, 23 Feb. 2024 Other charges included a new indictment against Vladislav Osipov on charges of bank fraud in connection with operating the Motor Yacht Tango, a 255-foot luxury yacht owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. Jeff Stein, Washington Post, 22 Feb. 2024 Transparency is becoming synonymous with ethical business in today's climate—so much so that even a Russian oligarch is demanding the art world change its strategies for accountability. Alexandra Bregman, Forbes, 11 Feb. 2024 The yacht definitely grants him admission to the watery playgrounds of such multibillionaires as Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison, Bill Gates and any of the Russian oligarchs who haven’t been the target of sanctions imposed by the United States or its allies over Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Martha Ross, The Mercury News, 21 Mar. 2024 The goal is to take down the business people who are helping to fund the war and bar wealthy oligarchs from accessing goods and services in the West, the officials said. Robert Legare, CBS News, 22 Feb. 2024 Experts say Ukrainian oligarchs used their profits to influence politics and the judiciary, as well as to buy or launch television channels to shape public opinion. Constant Méheut, New York Times, 15 Jan. 2024 And Washington and Europe’s post-invasion crackdown on Russian oligarchs, years overdue, was welcomed in the Russian opposition community. Aleksei Miniailo, Foreign Affairs, 28 Dec. 2023 Sure, the condos were wildly overpriced at the start, but it’s been 15 years since sponsor sales started closing — years in which billionaires and oligarchs and other assorted LLCs set ever-higher Manhattan records in neighboring buildings like 432 Park and 220 Central Park South. Curbed, 27 Nov. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'oligarch.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Greek oligárchēs, from olig- olig- + -archēs -arch entry 1, after Greek oligarcheîsthai "to be ruled by an oligarchy," oligarchía oligarchy

First Known Use

circa 1610, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of oligarch was circa 1610

Dictionary Entries Near oligarch

Cite this Entry

“Oligarch.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oligarch. Accessed 16 Apr. 2024.

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